Vitamin and mineral supplements should add to a nutritious diet, not replace healthy foods all together. Here are a few reasons you should avoid depending on pills and powders for your nutrient intake.
We don’t know it all.
Researchers have not identified all the active components in food. New, beneficial phytochemicals are being discovered every day. When you replace whole foods with supplements, you miss out on those food components that are benefiting your health, but that are not yet fully understood.
Too much of a good thing.
Recommended healthy ranges for nutrient intake are based on what research tells us the body needs to function at its best. Consuming vitamins and minerals beyond what the body needs will not increase your energy or increase your protection against disease. High doses of individual nutrients, especially fat soluble vitamins and minerals, may exceed safe levels of intake and cause toxicity.
Added nutrients don’t always provide the same benefit.
In addition to pills and powders, some supplements are used to fortify or enrich foods. Foods with added fiber are a good example. There is reason to believe that fiber found naturally in food is superior to that added during processing. In a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, researchers found that when given a bar high in added fiber (10 grams), subjects reported no effect on fullness, but did report increased gas and bloating when compared to a low fiber bar.
Few nutrients act alone.
Nutrients naturally occur in a complex combination and often rely on reactions of other food components to function properly. For example, the role of vitamin D and calcium are closely related, as well as the role of folate and vitamin B12. Ingesting high doses of one vitamin or mineral may cause an imbalance. Eating a variety of whole foods provides a better balance of nutrients so that each can perform its function.
Dietary supplements are regulated like foods.
The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) defines a dietary supplement as any product in pill, powder, or liquid form that is meant to supplement the diet, such as a vitamin, mineral, herb, botanical, or amino acid. The regulation of dietary supplements falls under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but in the U.S. they are regulated like a food, and not a drug. This means that FDA approval is not required before they are sold to the public. As a result, the purity of the products and dose recommendations are not required to undergo the same rigorous scientific testing as a drug before becoming available to the public.
While most professionals recommend getting nutrients from healthy foods versus supplements, there are conditions and stages in life when supplementation may be necessary. Some examples include:
Women of child-bearing age.
Women who are pregnant or breast feeding.
Those diagnosed with nutrient deficiencies or conditions that reduce nutrient absorption.
Talk with your doctor if you fall into these categories. He or she can help you determine the correct supplements and doses for your specific needs.
Nutrition professionals recommend that snacks contain about 200 calories. Combining complex carbohydrates and heart-healthy fat with protein gives snacks the staying power to keep you energized. A great way to create a balanced snack is to pick a healthy food and pair it with nutrient-packed dips or toppings. Below are a few examples of healthy dippers and spreads or toppings to enjoy with them.
Whole Wheat Crackers (no trans-fats)
2 large stalks
Green/Red/Yellow Bell Pepper Strips
18 - 23
Whole Wheat Pita Chips
Sliced Apples or Pears
80 - 100
Whole Wheat Tortilla
Spreads / Toppings
Low-fat Plain Yogurt mixed with Salsa
Low-fat Yogurt (plain or mixed with fruit)
Natural Peanut Butter (no trans-fat)
50 - 90
Unsweetened Apple Sauce
Low-fat Cottage Cheese
Note: Calories are provided as an estimate and will vary slightly by brand.
Under 200 calories per serving and a good source of fiber, these filling muffins make a great on-the-go breakfast. This recipe uses fresh, sweet dates and shredded carrots to cut down on the amount of added sugar. Unsweetened applesauce eliminates the need for oil while keeping them tender and delicious.
Tips for the cook: The coconut topping goes well with the carrot, but it is optional. You can bake the muffins with no topping at all, or substitute the coconut with heart-healthy walnuts or sunflower seeds for crunch.
Yield: 6 muffins
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
10 fresh dates (such as Medjool dates)
1 cup shredded carrot (about 2 small carrots)
¼ cup raw sugar
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp salt
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 tbsp unsweetened shredded or flaked coconut
2 tbsp raw sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 6-muffin baking pan, or half of a 12-muffin pan with olive oil or non-stick cooking spray.
Add the dates to a small food processor and pulse until finely chopped. You can also chop them finely with a knife. Add the dates to a large mixing bowl.
To the mixing bowl, add the carrots and the raw sugar. Stir the mixture, breaking up the dates so that they are evenly distributed throughout the shredded carrot. Stir in the egg and applesauce, mix well. Add the vanilla.
Next, stir in the baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until the ingredients are combined. Slowly stir in the flour, just until all the ingredients are incorporated.
Transfer the batter to the prepared muffin pan. Fill each of 6 muffin slots with about ½ cup of the batter.
In a small bowl, stir together the coconut, sugar, and cinnamon. Top each muffin with about 2 teaspoons of the mixture. Gently press it into the batter so that it sticks to the muffin top as it bakes.
Bake for 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each muffin comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes. If necessary, slide a knife gently around the outside edge of each muffin to loosen it, and then remove the muffins from the pan and transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Nutrition information for 1 muffin: Calories 197; Total Fat 2.7 g; Saturated Fat 1.2 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 60 mg; Sodium 301 mg; Carbohydrate 39.2 g; Fiber 4 g; Sugars 22.8 g; Protein 5.3 g
Trans fatty acids are formed when oils are exposed to high heat and high pressure in the presence of hydrogen gas, a process called hydrogenation. This makes an unsaturated fat more solid at room temperature, which extends its shelf life and improves texture in processed foods.
Are trans fatty acids unhealthy?
It was once thought that these fats were better than saturated fats because they were unsaturated. We now know that trans fats increase LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and they decrease HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol), a dangerous combination that increases risk for heart disease.
What foods contain trans fatty acids?
Trans fat can be identified in foods as partially hydrogenated oils. Any product that lists partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredients list will contain trans fatty acids. The good news is that due to increased awareness and nutrition labeling laws, fewer foods contain trans fat, and intake has decreased in recent years.
Fried foods (French fries, fish sticks, fried chicken)
Margarine and vegetable shortenings
Chips and crackers
Small amounts of trans fat occur naturally in meat and dairy products. According to The Mayo Clinic, the trans fats in processed food formed through hydrogenation appear to be more harmful than the small amounts of naturally occurring trans fat.
How much trans fat can I eat?
The Institute of Medicine recommends that trans fat intake be as low as possible. The American Heart Association recommends that trans fat be 1% or less of your total daily calorie intake.
Should I rely on food labels for trans fat information?
Since 2006, the Food and Drug Administration has required food manufacturers to list trans fat on the Nutrition Facts label. Unfortunately, if the food contains fewer than 0.5 grams per serving, the FDA allows manufacturers to say that the item contains 0 grams of trans fat. These small amounts that slip through the cracks add up. The only way to play it safe is to read the ingredients and exclude foods that contain hydrogenated oils. Better yet, choose minimally processed foods for the bulk of your diet, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and cereals, beans and legumes, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, and nuts and seeds.
The direct link between water intake and weight loss is a topic of debate. While past beliefs that water flushes fat from the body lack scientific support, some studies do show that water can influence your weight in other ways. These are a few things we know about water, hydration, health, and weight loss.
About 55-60% of your body weight is water, which helps with temperature regulation, cardiovascular function, waste removal, and metabolism. To function at its best, the body needs to be well-hydrated.
Due to water loss through sweat, dehydration can quickly set in during exercise – especially in hot and humid weather. Dehydration leads to fatigue and poor exercise performance. This reduces the amount of time and the intensity at which you can exercise, decreasing overall calorie burn.
Drinking large amounts of water can result in hyponatremia (low sodium). When drinking too much plain water, electrolytes (especially sodium) are transported from the blood and tissues into the small intestine, resulting in a dangerous electrolyte imbalance.
One small study showed that following water intake, metabolic rate increases and remains elevated for over an hour. One reason for this increased calorie burn is thought to be the energy needed for the body to heat the water.
Another study, published in the journal Obesity, found that increased water intake was linked to decreased weight, waist circumference, and body fat in overweight women who were on a weight loss plan.
Thirst can sometimes be mistaken for hunger. Water may help reduce hunger, which can reduce overall calorie intake.
Sipping water provides a distraction to reduce mindless snacking.
Replacing beverages that contain calories with water will lower total calorie intake.